Show Me the Passion and the Money Will Come
After being nominated for a teaching award, I was asked by the faculty senate to draft a concise statement of philosophy regarding what I believed to be fundamental to excellence in teaching. The following is the statement I submitted:

I believe that a teacher should be zealous in their commitment to their profession. The most exciting, effective, and creative teachers are those who are truly excited and energized about the subject they teach. There is simply no substitute for passion.
During more than 30 years’ involvement in education where I constantly focused on creating an exciting learning environment, I concluded that physical surroundings–buildings, chairs, heating/cooling, bulletin boards, technology—had limited impact on developing student enthusiasm for the topic being studied. What made a major impact on students was the instructor’s passion for the subject area. The zeal and conviction one possesses regarding their discipline causes others to become infected with a sense of worth for that subject. It is similar to being in the presence of someone who is amused by a humorous story or something comical they have witnessed. If they begin to laugh uncontrollably, before you know it you are smiling, then laughing with them. Why, because you are in the presence of someone who is filled with joy and laughter. It becomes infectious.

I can honestly say the amount of money I earned teaching (ranging from $400 a month to $400 an hour) never affected the passion with which I taught. Where did the passion come from? It came from within and never stopped burning during all the years I taught. Business law was one of the principle areas in which I instructed. I literally saw hundreds of students give career consideration to becoming a lawyer, paralegal, or related area of law resulting from their exposure to a course in business law by an instructor who was passionate about the subject. That passion created a desire in me to search for teaching materials in everything facet of my life. In reading about a coffee spill at McDonalds, hearing about a friend’s contract dispute over sales commissions, watching a television special focusing on some type of consumer fraud, or when drafting a lease agreement for a rental, I would always evaluate the possible use this information/experience in making classroom instruction more meaningful.

In a 1999 study asking new college graduates what they ranked as most important in considering employment, the respondents stated "enjoying what I do" as their foremost consideration. More than 1,180 prospective and new graduates of colleges and universities nationwide participated in the survey. What this insightful survey illustrates is very rewarding. It speaks very positively of the implications for excellence and passion these graduates will bring to their occupations. One only hopes these students will follow through with their initial instincts.

Enjoying and being excited about what one does, whether it be acting as talk show host, drilling a water well, installing electrical service to a new residence, creating a new rose specie, assisting a group of ESL kids grasp a difficult language concept regarding American slang, or alleviating the pain in a patient with an abscessed tooth, is certainly the key to performing at an above average level.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey, as one of America’s wealthiest women, exemplifies this concept. I’m sure she could have retired from her position as talk show host many years ago. Yet, her passion for making a difference in hundreds of thousands of American’s lives continues to drive her to improve her television show and expand into print media.

My wife and I operate a resume/career service. As a result we often counsel those seeking to find an appropriate vocation. Invariably I will ask clients what they do during their leisure time–in essence what are they excited about. After hearing them discuss hobbies such as refurbishing automobiles, reading about the Civil War, teaching a Sunday school class, acting as a docent in a local hospital, or surfing the Net, I frequently suggest employment or an entrepreneurial activity in a career related to the hobby about which they have spoken so passionately. I strongly suggest to them that if they follow their passion, the money will come. When you are committed to an activity, you will think about it constantly, read about it, associate with people who share the same interest, try new approaches while engaged in this activity, and devote tremendous energy to the endeavor. When this is done, your performance improves markedly. And when you perform significantly above the norm, your compensation/fees/commissions often rise significantly. Passion leads to above average income in a market-style economy that rewards quality service and goods with enhanced earnings.